Skip to content

Toppling of statues hits the mark; but misses an opportunity to come together

I began my day Thursday, July 1, by proudly placing a Canadian flag in my front window.

The 19X13 inch paper flag was a fold-out in a Summer 2021 PROUD TO BE CANADIAN flyer delivered to homes of constituents from the office of Cariboo-Prince George member of Parliament, Todd Doherty.

I had wanted to do more to mark the occasion. Cupcakes with red and white icing, fresh bouquet of red and white flowers. But In the extreme heat  the paper flag was the best that I could do.

I had planned, as many did, to take time and reflect on long-hidden horrors of our country’s past and the recent discovery of hundreds of unmarked child graves in and around Indian residental schools.

But ordinary, patriotic Canadians did not make headlines on Canada Day. Demonstrators did.

And by day’s end, I was in tears over what this nation has become and to what lengths people will go to mete out their pound of flesh, or – as  was the case on Thursday – their tons of monumental metal.

Outside the Manitoba Legislature Buildings in Winnipeg, a “group” – as the media has most carefully framed it – toppled a huge statue of Queen Victoria which was dedicated in 1904.

I cried when I saw the video.

For me, even more troubling, was news of the toppling of a “smaller statue,” this one of our  reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth II.

I’m not sure if this news hit me harder on a personal level because I am a British born immigrant to Canada who, for most of my life, sang the refrains of God Save The Queen and pledged allegiance to our flag.

Or, if it was the place: Winnipeg is where I lived before coming to B.C., where I graduated university and began my career as a journalist, and where my first child was born.

These acts of violence which targeted not just Winnipeg but communities all over Canada (even as several Catholic churches still smouldered from “suspicious fires”) literally just added more fuel to the fire of hatred.

They do nothing to advance the reconciliation that by all accounts the vast majority of people say they want. Instead, those who chose ugly, profane words and violent displays Thursday, went way beyond disrespectful.

To be clear, there is no sane person who would condone the atrocities of residential schools or  deny the horrendous harm done to Indigenous people here. This is clearly a national disgrace.

However, the Truth and Reconciliation process, with its plodding but we trust “sure” regard for and implementation of a commission’s nearly 100  recommendations, could include more mention of what has been done, over the years, by, or on behalf of, Canada.

Measures that show our good faith, our sincere remorse and efforts at healing through support and financial compensation … none of which suggests we are done with this.

But from my own Canadian Caucasian perspective, I do wish we could get past the caustic language and loaded labels ‘white privilege,’ ‘settler,’ ‘colonist,’ and so on, and focus on language and deeds that move us forward – if for no other reason than to leave a legacy of peace to our future generations.

Ironically, I had been watching a movie, Victoria and Abdul, based on the story of Queen Victoria and her friendship with a Muslim clerk from India. Abdul became her teacher and remained devoted to Queen Victoria until her death in 1901.

After the movie, I did a Google search to see how closely the movie mirrored reality when, suddenly, unexpectedly (because I don’t have TV), the news  popped up from The Guardian, the Winnipeg Sun, CBC and others on the desecration of her statue.

Video footage shows ropes and red paint on Queen Victoria’s statue as it is yanked to the ground amid cheers from bystanders. I will not repeat the vulgar word directed at HRM Queen Elizabeth as her statue was torn down.

Meanwhile, China has released videos of their vibrant celebrations marking 100 years since the founding of the Chinese Communist Party.

Yet in Canada, with its fought-and-died-for-democracy, we could not muster enough stoic pride in our own country to press pause on the blame buttons for just one day – Canada Day – to show our willingness to try to come together.

Teresa Mallam is an award winning writer. Her credits include a Jack Webster Award of Distinction, BC Law Society Award for Excellence in Legal Reporting and Canadian Authors Association (CAA) award for Best Investigative Journalism, as well as several Black Press media  awards for her columns, court coverage and news features.

What do you think about this story?